Sunday, July 29, 2012

What science fiction has to teach us about the Aurora Shooting

I have to write about this because it's been rolling over in my mind and I need to talk about it. I'm not going to post any pictures because I don't want it to be the main focus of this piece and I don't want to promote the shooter's image. That you can see all over the place, anyway. You've all heard the details by now, so I'm not going to talk about that, either. You know what happened.

I've written, re-written, and edited the hell out of this post.  There are things I wanted to say about this that I decided to reserve for another day.This isn't a conversation about gun control, or a psychological profile. I'm not any kind of expert on that. I am, however, an expert on American drama and literature, so I'm going to work with what I know.

I do think it is important to construct narratives around these tragedies and acts of violence.

I'm reminded of Ray Bradbury's short story "A Piece of Wood." In this story, a solider comes up with a solution to end all violence and wars. He develops a chemical compound that instantly rusts all metal. Guns, tanks, missiles, rockets, everything. He tells his superiors that he's going to take out not only the enemy's weapons, but all the Army's weapons as well. Doing this, he believes, will stop war and violence. His superior tries to restrain him, but the solider gets away, after rusting the superior's gun. He's going off to destroy all weapons everywhere. Once the superior realized what the solider has planned, and that his gun is now a pile of rust, he breaks apart a wood chair and goes after the solider with what amounts to a crude club.

The point here is, even if all guns were banned and banished forever, or if they were all rusted away, people would still find a way to create violence. I believe Bradbury is making a visceral point--whatever the motivation, people find a way. They always do.  If not guns, then clubs. If not not clubs, it would be something else. Once again, science fiction reminds us of ourselves, and shows us our future. From this story, and its application to the events in Colorado, I am reminded that humans are a violent and cruel sad little species. Nothing new, perhaps, but what is?  One of the best examinations of humanity has been from the "Planet of the Apes" movies. Take this quote here:

 Any of you who have seen the movies, or read the books (or both), know what I'm talking about. Dr. Zaius says it perfectly: the only thing man has ever done well has been violence. He knows Taylor's secret, or his "destiny".

Of course this is a pessimistic and dire view of humanity. But I believe there's a grain of truth to it. I can think of several things humankind has done well--from art, theatre, music, poetry, technology, and so on. But what are we REALLY good at? Being mean, cold, cruel, evil, crazy bigoted assholes. At about 1:45 in, you get the heavy questions that really frame the whole movie, where we find our propulsion for the whole story, the big 'what if':

Everywhere I look, people seem to have clear cut answers. People seem to be definitely for one side, or definitely for the other side. Ban all guns. Give everyone guns.Two polar extremes. I've been asked a lot what I think about the shooting--and what can I really say that hasn't been said? I wish I lived in a clear cut simple world like that.I don't think anything will change, unless and until the basic nature of humankind changes. And unless the simians take over, I don't see that happening.

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